For the second time in three seasons and third time since 2010, the Baltimore Ravens have been punished by the NFL for violating offseason practice rules. If the past is any indication, their 2018 season is about to get significantly better in the aftermath.
The NFL docked the Ravens their final two official team activity (OTA) practices this week for an undisclosed violation. Head coach John Harbaugh and team owner Steve Bisciotti each got served pricy fines as well — $50,000 for Harbaugh and $100,000 for Bisciotti.
Per sources, Ravens will lose final two OTAs this week as a result of an undisclosed infraction of league rules. John Harbaugh and Steve Bisciotti also facing potential fines. Not sure of nature of infraction.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) June 6, 2018
Harbaugh and the Ravens blamed the infractions on the habits of young players who just can’t keep from hitting their teammates during passing drills.
Ravens statements regarding the NFL ruling: pic.twitter.com/ia0XP5V4Qs— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) June 6, 2018
History suggests the punishment will pay off. The past two times Baltimore got dinged by the league during the preseason, it saw a three-game improvement from the previous year. In 2010, a violation of collective bargaining agreement offseason rules forced a week of cancellations at June OTAs. That fall, the Ravens went from 9-7 to 12-4, losing the AFC North title to the Steelers in a tiebreaker.
In 2016, Harbaugh and his team drew even bigger fines — $137,223 and $343,057, respectively — for a similar violation. Seven months later, his team improved from 5-11 to 8-8.
A similar leap would put Baltimore firmly in contention for a division title. The Ravens went 9-7 last season while gifting a playoff berth to the Bills by losing their Week 17 game against the Bengals. Upping that total to 12 would ensure not even a final-game meltdown could derail the team’s playoff hopes.
But while Baltimore was penalized for breaking rules in their pass coverage drills, it may want to focus more on the other side of the ball. The Ravens won nine games despite starting the league’s least-efficient quarterback in 2017. Joe Flacco’s 5.7 yards per pass was the lowest among qualified starters last season, somehow worse than Brett Hundley and DeShone Kizer.
So maybe Harbaugh’s forbidden drills were intended to toughen up his receiving corps. We’ll know it paid off when Baltimore rallies to a 12-4 record this fall.